Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Living Into God's Story - Part 4

***Please know that I am not claiming any of this as an original idea of mine. Like I said previously, our pastors spent weeks fleshing out the concept of Living into God’s Story and if this idea intrigues you, I would encourage you to listen to the sermons. My blog posts are simply my way of sharing what God branded into my spirit as our pastors opened the Word. ***

image courtesy of

So, to recap . . .

Previously, on Out of the Boat (this line is best if you use Mark Harmon's NCIS voice) :-).

My knowledge of storytelling has given me a new appreciation for God's story. And for my part in it.

One rule of writing is to have only as many characters as you need. If your protagonist has five best friends, they probably need to be combined into one or two. If your evil empire is enormous, you only need to flesh out the character of a few key individuals and allow the others to remain part of the anonymous crowd.
So, if God is the Ultimate Storyteller and we are the characters in His story, then . . .

We must have a purpose.

And, here it comes . . . wait for it . . .

That purpose is not all about me (or you – sorry to burst your bubble).

God always has more than you or me in mind.

He loves us, but He is always working in our lives in order to preserve many lives. The lives of our family members, our community, and maybe people we will never meet.

Joseph is a perfect example of this. When Joseph was in the pit, God knew what was coming. God knew that Joseph's suffering, while it would bring about a great deal of personal growth, was ultimately about saving the entire family. The very family through which Christ would come, which would ultimately save the world.

The World.

Now admittedly, Joseph was a Major character and there can only be so many Major characters. So far, the books I've written (OK — the one I've written and the one I'm working on) have two major characters. Everyone else is a minor character. Note that I said minor, not unnecessary. There’s a BIG difference.

There's only one Billy Graham. Only one Beth Moore. Only one Me. Only one You.

My role in God’s story probably won't be to reach the world. It may be to reach my neighbor. Or my child. Or my friend.

But my role is important (and so is yours).

In my current plotline, I'm a 36-year old wife and mother of two. I have everything I need and most of what I want. But there's been an unexpected development. As I write these words, I have no idea where He's going with this, because like all good storytellers, He only gives me enough information for me to know what's happening now, with maybe a few hints as to what's coming. But He doesn't give away the whole story. What would be the fun in that?

He's laid it on my heart to write. At first it was fiction. It still is, but the storyline has developed and now I have this blog and some devotions.

But what's the point?

Sometimes I start to wonder why me? Why now? Or, I wonder if I've lost my mind.

And here’s where the idea of Living into God’s Story has completely changed the way I think about this topic.

A year ago, if you’d said, “Lynn, what do you think God is up to with this whole writing thing?” my response would probably have included the following:

  • God is teaching me about following Him when it doesn’t make sense.
  • God is teaching me to trust Him and His timing.
  • God is showing me new dimensions of Himself and I am growing to love and appreciate Him more each day.

Now, you may be wondering what’s wrong with those statements.

Especially since they are all true.

But they totally miss the point!

Sure, God is teaching me. All the time. And I’m sure my personal sanctification is a part of the plan. But if I start thinking that it’s all about me, what I will learn, how I will grow, I will miss something huge.

Because God is too good a storyteller to weave a plotline that only impacts one minor character. Oh no. Nuh-uh. Not going to happen.

Somewhere along the way, I’ve gotten the erroneous idea that everything that happens to me is about me. When in reality, everything that happens to me is about others. God has a plan to use me to reach others.

This, I must say, is a humbling and exciting idea.

I still don’t know why I’m writing this blog or editing a novel.

But maybe He’s called me to write because in His story, I have a story to tell and no one else can tell it quite the way I will and somewhere, someone needs to hear it.

And that’s a story that will keep me turning the pages, just to see what happens next.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Living Into God's Story - Part 3

image courtesy of

Knowledge is a funny thing.

For example, when we head out to the local ballpark and grab a hotdog and a coke, we don't really want to know how that hotdog was made. We know that some people who do know have chosen never to eat these things again. But as long as we don't "know" we can go about our life, enjoying our hotdogs, and try not to think about it too much.

Of course, sometimes, knowledge increases our awareness of our surroundings. After I learned to knit, I found that when I look at a sweater I can tell if it was knit or woven, and if it has stockinette or seed or garter stitching. Not that this is going to bring about world peace or anything. It's just a new thing I'm cognizant of.

Same with public swimming pools. My first job out of college was with the Dept. of Health and Environmental Control as an Environmental Engineer. Our section regulated water treatment plants and public swimming pools. (Please do not ask me why those two went together.) Because of what I know about the regulations, I notice if the depth markers are non-slip, and how many drains are in the bottom of the pool. Again, it's just random knowledge, but it adds to the way I experience the world. (It's also why I prefer that my children not play in kiddie pools and why I'm not a huge fan of hot tubs, but I digress).

In our interactions with others, knowledge can add dimension and layers to a relationship. When you find out about someone's past, it gives you insights into their present. When you learn what their love language is, it helps you understand why they do or say or react in certain ways.

As I mentioned in my last post, learning about writing has had an impact on how I view books. It hasn't lessened my love for them. If anything, I look at them with a whole new sense of wonder.

And, it has given me a whole new appreciation for the concept of storytelling.

I'm not sure when I heard it first, and I'm not sure if it would have impacted me so strongly if I wasn't in the middle of my own self-discovery as a storyteller, but it seems like everywhere I turn, someone is talking about God as a Storyteller. This in no way implies that His Word is not true. Far from it.

It simply acknowledges that God, as our Creator, knew that the best way to tell us about Himself was to tell us a story.

Pause right there.

Think about that.

Go ahead and get chills (if you're a writer, this should make you giddy).

Because God is the ultimate storyteller.

(OK - this should come as no surprise since God is the Ultimate Everything, but I'd never thought of Him - God - as one who tells stories, or as a writer. Which seems silly given that there about 30 Bibles in my house. Another "duh" moment for Lynn.)

I recently completed Beth Moore's study on Esther (which I highly recommend). And one thing she mentioned over and over was how God laid out the story. She talked about chiastic structure and plotlines. Even about how God told us what we need to know and left out the parts that, while they might have been interesting to us (what did happen to Vashti?), weren't necessary for the story.

While I was studying Esther, our pastors were doing a Sunday morning series entitled "Living Into God's Story". We covered the last several chapters of Genesis - Joseph's story. Talk about a story! You've got prophetic dreams, family dysfunction, murder plots, slavery, rags to riches to rags to riches, deceitful women, prison, more dreams, forgetful butlers, doomed cooks, more family dysfunction, forgiveness and hope and grace. This story has everything!

But God didn't tell us this particular story for our amusement.

He told us this story so we could know more about Him.

Just as my knowledge of being a parent has increased my understanding of how God relates to His children, my knowledge of storytelling has given me a whole new appreciation for God's story. And for my part in it.

More about what Living Into God's Story looks like for me, next time on Out of the Boat!

(This line reads better if you use your best TV soap opera voice - you know, "Next time, on Why Would Anyone Watch This, will what's her name survive the electric chair? Will the handsome star find his way off Mt. Everest? Will the cute teenage boy get rid of his acne before the prom?")

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Living Into God's Story - Part 2

Story trumps all.

At least, it does for me.

I come from a long line of readers. My Pa loved Zane Grey. My Granny - well, Granny's den could pass for a Christian bookstore. She reads all the time. My parents and sister are avid readers. Reading is in my blood.

My mother claims that even as a very young child, I loved books (as you can see from the photo - yep, that's me). She says she would hand me a book (no pictures) upside down and I would automatically turn it right-side up. She says I did it every time. I couldn't wait to go to kindergarten because I had been told I would learn to read.

As a fifteen year old who had just snagged my learner's permit, my mother had to ban me from taking books in the car for several months when she realized I had no idea how to get around town. How would I? I never went anywhere without a book.

My reading tastes are eclectic. I read fiction (christian and secular), nonfiction, children's literature and the classics. I read historicals, chick-lit, fantasy, sci-fi, romance and suspense. I draw the line at horror -- I read for pleasure, not to have myself so freaked out that I'm afraid of my own shadow at noon.

I love Dickens, Shakespeare, Tolkien and Austen but I also love Rowling, Meyer, Clancy and Flynn.

I love books that are deemed to be the greatest of all time and also those that are scorned by the writing establishment.

(Side note: I have no idea who the writing establishment people are. I'm just working off the assumption that they exist.)

I've noticed that the more popular a writer is, the more people seem to feel it necessary to make comments like "I don't know how they've sold so many books . . . the writing is terrible."

To which I say . . . Duh!

(I know - I know. My grasp of the English language is astounding at times!)

Do they really not know? Are they so pleased with their own knowledge that they can't see the obvious?

It's simple. Some people know how to tell a great story. Period.

They might not be the world's greatest craftsmen of the English language, violating all the "rules" on every single page. The writing may be substandard, or even truly terrible. It may be that someone else could have written the story better. And this annoys some.

And sometimes it annoys me, because I've learned a lot about writing in the past eight months. I can discuss point of view, plot structure, genre and word count. I can have a reasonably articulate discussion that includes phrases like "injudicious use of adverbs" and "poor choice of sentence attributions" - phrases that meant nothing to me when I sat down and started writing a novel fifteen months ago.

Because of this new knowledge, I notice the mistakes now. I see the POV errors, the poor sentence structure, the "looseness" of the writing.

Guess what?

If the STORY has captured me . . . I DON'T CARE!

To make matters worse, if the story has captured me, I will go back to that world again . . . and again . . . and again. Drives my husband nuts. He'll see me curled up with a book and say "Are you reading that - again?"

To which I will reply, "Yes" and get back into the story. He rolls his eyes and wanders off wondering about the loon he married. The nutcase who can't seem to stay away from Narnia, Middle Earth, Hogwarts or Forks. The one who wants to visit Prince Edward Island because of Anne of Green Gables. The one who has rarely left the Southeast but has traveled this world and quite a few others while perched in her "reading spot" in the tree of her childhood yard, or curled up in the recliner while pretending she can't hear Barney for the hundredth time.

I love a good story.

And the craziest thing of all is that I'm living in a story. Me. Right now.

God, the greatest storyteller of all time has written a story for me. Well, He's written His story and I am a minor character in the plot. And like every truly good storyteller, He has no unnecessary characters - plenty of misbehaving characters, but no unnecessary characters.

Tune in next time as we continue to explore the idea of Living Into God's Story.

And hey - leave me a comment. Tell me if it's the same for you. Is it the story that grabs you or do you need a finely crafted sentence to go along with it? Do you read a book once and never return to that world or do you enjoy a repeat journey? If there's a story that captures you time and time again, tell me. I'd love to read it!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Living Into God's Story - Part 1

I come from a long line of storytellers.

My great-grandfather on my dad's side of the family, Pa Everett (shown here with my great-grandmother, my Pa, my dad, and a very small me) knew how to tell a story. I have no idea how much formal education he had. He was a stonemason and a good one. But he is most remembered for his stories. I can remember sitting on the porch of his home on a summer evening, surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins (we have a big family) and listening to him recount some event from his past. I remember some of my aunts talking about trying to write down some of his stories and the general consensus was that it wouldn't work. The story wasn't as good when written. Even if you wrote it word for word, it would lose it's magic. There was just something about the way he told it.

My father is a storyteller in the tradition of Christ.

Just as Jesus used stories to drive home truth, my dad uses stories to illustrate God's principles and how they work in real life. As his daughter, I have frequently been the subject of his stories! Growing up, there were times when something would happen and we would look at dad and say "This better not end up in a sermon." But people relate to stories. And they are also more receptive to accepting a hard truth when they've been laughing for five minutes first. My dad doesn't pull any punches. He speaks the Truth. But he tells it in a way that makes you want to hear it. And hear more of it. It's a gift. And a calling. And he's amazing.

My aunts and uncles are funny and great at telling tales, but as far as I'm concerned, my sister currently wears the mantle of best storyteller.

Family dinners with me and my parents are calm, interesting, and normal. When Jennifer's there, look out. You're likely to spew your tea or choke on your spaghetti. Laughter is guaranteed. Much like my great-grandfather, her timing is superb. And she knows how to nail the punchline. The bottom line - any family gathering is just more fun when she's there. She knows how to liven up the party.

So you can imagine my total shock and amazement when I realized (at 35) that I might have gotten some of the storytelling gene. Mine mutated a bit though. I'm not so great with the oral story. I flub it up and it's never as funny. I'll always defer to Jennifer to recount an event. Her version will be much better. But writing down a story . . . that's different. Maybe because I have time to work with it, to tweak it. I'm not sure. It's still a new idea to me.

So in the next several posts, I'm going to be exploring the idea of storytelling in both fiction and the real world. Because here's a thought for you to ponder (while you wait anxiously for my next post!).

God is the ultimate storyteller.

And we are the characters in His story.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Grace Not Yet Discovered

Twenty years ago today, I turned 16.

I remember the day clearly for several reasons.

My family threw me a surprise party and . . .

I caught my hair on fire when I blew out the candles!


What can I say? It was 1990. I used a lot of hairspray.

I've been thinking about my 16-year old self lately. She didn't know how easy she had it. She had a pretty good idea of how her life was going to go. She was going to go to college, fall in love, get married, have kids, maybe cure the world of cancer in her spare time . . . you know, all the important stuff.

And she did all that (except the cure for cancer). But strangely, she never anticipated the challenges along the way. And thank heaven she didn't. If 16-year old Lynn had known the plot line of the next 20 years, she would have been paralyzed by fear. She wouldn't have been able to enjoy the many happy times because she would have been dreading the tough times.

While I pondered all this, smug and superior as I remembered my naivete, a new thought struck.

What will 56-year old Lynn think of 36-year old Lynn? Will she remember the day she turned 36? How she took Emma to a new dentist and had lunch with her sister? Will she remember the way life was back in 2010 and shake her head and wish things were as easy as they were then? Will she be glad that 36-year old Lynn had no idea what was heading her way?

That kind of thinking could get depressing. Except for one thing.


Tom Hayes, an evangelist that I've known my entire life (he and my dad were roommates in college), wrote a song called New Grace. The chorus goes like this . . .

Grace not yet discovered
Grace not yet uncovered
Grace from His bountiful store
Grace to cross the river
Grace to face forever
There'll be new grace I've not needed before.

God's grace has been sufficient through every trial and challenge. And it will continue to be. No matter what comes my way there will be grace that I have not yet discovered and it will be bountiful and abundant and it will be exactly what I need, when I need it.

I have no idea how 56-year old Lynn's life will look and I don't need to know.

I put my trust in the One who does know.

The one whose grace is enough.